Friday, August 12, 2022

2022 Fantasy Football rookies: Analyzing the running back class, including 2022 and rookie draft outlooks

Fantasy managers frequently look to rookies as instant-impact players. But what if the collective NFL isn’t as impressed with a rookie class? Should Fantasy managers take notice and not put much stock into them, or should they still draft them anyway? 

In April’s draft, only two skill-position players, receivers Drake London and Garrett Wilson, went in the first 10 picks (neither made the top five). By the time Round 1 was done, six receivers, one quarterback and no running backs were selected. By the time the first 50 overall picks were through, two running backs and four more receivers were chosen. 

Fine, 10 receivers in the first 50 picks aren’t so bad. But just two running backs and one quarterback? 

The truth is that the 2022 class is solid, but imperfect. There isn’t a flawless player who managers can count on for big numbers right away. Not only is there no Najee Harris or Ja’Marr Chase, but there’s no Javonte Williams or Jaylen Waddle. It might be a stretch to say there’s one who could produce like Elijah Mitchell or Elijah Moore.

You’re about to learn that there isn’t anyone in the rookie class worth going crazy for. You won’t see any rookies in the top-25 picks in seasonal leagues and, if your draft is anything like the one you’ll see on our site, you won’t see any rookies in the top 45, either. And if you’re in a rookie-only draft for Dynasty leagues, you may determine that you’d rather trade out of this year’s picks to stock up on next year’s class, which already figures to be awesome. 

Note: Players are listed in the order of Dave Richard’s 2022 PPR rankings. Players ages are as of Week 1.

  • More rookies: RB | WR (Wed.) | QB (Thu.) | TE (Fri.)

Breece Hall, New York Jets

Height 5-11 1/4 | Weight: 217 | Age: 21 years old

Hall is a stout three-down back who wins with incredible vision, balance and lateral agility. He has the patience to thrive in a zone-scheme run system (like the Jets have) and the shiftiness to avoid oncoming tacklers. And while he doesn’t have elite speed nor is a nuanced route-runner or run blocker, Hall still averaged 146.9 total yards per game over his final two seasons at Iowa State with 46 total touchdowns in 24 games. If only he wasn’t on the Jets – they already have a young running back in Michael Carter, a coaching staff that strongly believes in using multiple rushers and a young quarterback who has a multi-year track record of not leaning on his running backs in the passing game. Plus, the Jets haven’t had a running back rank higher than 12th in Fantasy points per game (PPR) since 2009.  

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Hall can safely be counted on as a No. 2 Fantasy running back right away, but his path to being a top-12 guy will depend heavily on how quickly he can convince his coaches to funnel him targets and put him on the field enough for 20 touches per game. Even if he has a couple of outstanding preseason highlights, it’ll feel like a reach if he’s taken in Round 3. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: In one- and two-QB formats, Hall is a virtual lock to go No. 1 overall simply because there isn’t another player with his kind of upside in both the short- and long-term at any position.

Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks

Height 5-9 1/4 | Weight: 211 | Age: 21 years old

Walker is a stocky, strong-legged running back with excellent lateral agility and very good patience and burst. He also has top-end speed to help him finish his runs. This was on display in 2021 when he ran for 136.3 rush yards per game and rumbled for 18 touchdowns in 12 games at Michigan State. Per Pro Football Focus, Walker’s 89 forced missed tackles and 1,168 yards after contact were both best in college football in 2021. Walker wasn’t asked to do much as a receiver in college but looked pretty natural when he did see short targets. His blocking might be his least appealing trait as he has work to do there. However, Walker’s rushing style fits perfectly into Seattle’s zone-heavy offense, putting him in position to begin the year in a tandem with Rashaad Penny but inevitably take over as the Seahawks’ lead running back. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: If we believed in Seattle’s offense, Walker would be the top rookie pick ahead of Hall. But the Seahawks are lacking a quarterback and have been pretty hesitant to involve their running backs in the pass game for a long time. It caps his upside, which is why the range to take him in redraft is Round 6. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Walker’s long-term view is fairly rosy when you consider that he’s Seattle’s only quality running back under contract in 2023 and the offense around him has nowhere to go but up. Even a change in coaches could push Walker’s potential higher. He’s worth taking as soon as No. 2 overall in all rookie drafts. 

Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons

Height 5-10 3/4 | Weight: 224 | Age: 22 years old

In the mold of grinders like James Conner and David Montgomery, Allgeier welcomes physicality but also uses his patience as a way to find space and win on the ground. He used that strength (and some occasional speed) to bowl over defenders on his way to 113.8 rush yards per game and 36 rushing scores over the past two seasons (24 games). He’s even serviceable in the passing game (28 catches in 2021). Where he lacks is in consistent speed and elusiveness, plus he needs work as a blocker. With competition limited to older veterans like Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams, Allgeier should be in line for a good dose of touches in Atlanta with upside for a feature role. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: It’s hard to get excited over Allgeier knowing that he’ll need time to find a large workload. It’s even harder when you consider the uncertainty surrounding the Falcons offense. That’s why he’s safest as solid bench depth with upside around 100th overall. A strong preseason would obviously rocket him into Round 6.

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Backs like Allgeier have a shorter shelf life than other backs. That keeps him from being anything more than a very late first-round pick.   

James Cook, Buffalo Bills

Height 5-11 | Weight: 199 | Age: 22 years old

Cook’s skill-set as an elusive breakaway runner and nuanced route-runner puts him immediately into a part-time role with the Bills. Not that he’s not a good traditional running back, but he doesn’t appear to have the build or natural power to handle the rigors of inside running at the pro level. That should mean more in the way of receiving for Cook as well as outside runs, which limit his touch potential right away. Cook averaged at least 6.1 yards per carry in each of four seasons at Georgia but never had even 120 carries in a season. He’ll spend 2022 seeing fewer touches per game than Devin Singletary. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Cook warrants a selection around 100th overall in PPR leagues but might fall all the way to 120th overall in non-PPR leagues since his potential for a lot of yardage and touchdowns seems low as a rookie.  

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Because of the thin nature of running backs, Cook could get as soon as 11th overall in some rookie drafts. That’s not a mistake if you need a runner in a PPR scoring system, but the value would seem a little fairer if he were taken three or more spots later.  

Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

Height 5-9 5/8 | Weight: 218 | Age: 22 years old

Pierce isn’t sudden nor speedy but has excellent balance and cutting ability to help him find space to pick up good yardage. He’s also better than your typical rookie in terms of receiving and blocking. His stats don’t really show any of that, though: In four years at Florida, he had very few big plays, never had more than 574 rush yards in a season and had 15-plus touches twice in 50 games. There have been prior rookies who had limited college experience who went on to strong Fantasy careers, but they weren’t picked in Round 4 like Pierce. The Texans are probably thrilled just to have some youth in their run game – Marlon Mack (26) and Rex Burkhead (32) are Pierce’s competition for playing time this preseason. It probably means Pierce will start in a committee but could lead the charge by October. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Without promised opportunities in the Texans’ already-suspect offense, Pierce should be drafted as a bench running back with solid upside. Once it’s Round 8, he’s fair game. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Once the top running backs and wide receivers are gone, Pierce will get attention. That should start at 11th overall and not last too long thereafter. 

Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers

Height 6-0 3/8 | Weight: 217 | Age: 21 years old

Unlike others in the draft class, Spiller is a pretty good blend of power and quickness. He’s got the strength to push piles and blow through lower-body tackles and the quick burst to evade a defender. He also has potential as a three-down player thanks to a competitive receiving skill-set and more than just a cursory interest in blocking. He doesn’t have top-end speed and his decisiveness comes and goes, but that’s about the extent of his negatives. You might also like to know that he didn’t miss a game in three years. Unfortunately, Spiller is stuck behind Austin Ekeler in Los Angeles, so it’s very likely he won’t be helpful in Fantasy unless Ekeler misses significant playing time. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Spiller is an attractive late-round stash for those managers who take Ekeler in Round 1. He also fits the bill as a bench lottery ticket for everyone else in the league, but one you might get impatient with after a couple of weeks. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Ekeler is 27 years old with two more years on his current contract. That could be as long as Spiller waits to get a feature opportunity with the Chargers. He’s almost certain to be an early second-round pick in all rookie-drafts. 

Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Height 6-0 3/8 | Weight: 214 | Age: 23 years old

After a lot of anonymity, White broke out with a big year at Arizona State, rumbling for 1,400-plus total yards and 16 total scores with 43 receptions. He got the job done thanks to his quick feet, effortless hands and good vision. His footwork is great, coming into play not only in terms of lateral agility and making defenders miss him when he cuts, but in his route-running as well. While his size is good, he’s not consistently powerful, nor does he have a top speed to run away from defenders. He’s good as a pass-catcher but needs help as a pass blocker. The good news is that White won’t get pushed into action this year as he’s certain to play behind Leonard Fournette. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: There are only mild hopes of White pitching in on the ground or through the air; a strong preseason would help him. But remember who the Bucs quarterback is – that’s who calls the shots on who plays when at running back. Until White earns Tom Brady’s trust, he’s unlikely to touch the ball much and is at best an insurance policy for those who take Fournette with an early pick. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: White’s skill-set and draft capital is enough evidence that he’s not promised anything long-term. So even though he’s a snazzy pass-catcher with some great feet, he must develop quickly in order to lock up a meaningful role beyond 2022. Expect him to be an early Round 2 pick in rookie-only drafts. 

Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders

Height 5-11 3/4 | Weight: 214 | Age: 22 years old

White is a stocky, punch-packing running back with quick burst and patience. He’s a good fit for a zone-running team as a two-down back but doesn’t have much in terms of elusiveness. He also has much to learn about pass blocking and catching the ball (17 receptions in three seasons). He’s also torn both of his ACLs already (right one in November 2017; left one in August 2018). There’s already been talk this offseason about White eventually becoming the Raiders’ lead back, and not just at the beginning of the 2023 season. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: White will be a late-round flier, both as an insurance policy for Josh Jacobs but also as a low-end lottery ticket. The worry is that Jacobs starts his season playing well, relegating White to the waiver wire. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Do not forget about this guy! White’s long-term upside is very strong, especially since Jacobs will be out of contract after the 2022 season. He seems precisely like the kind of run-downs back McDaniels has employed previously in New England. An incredible bargain in early Round 2 of rookie-only drafts. 

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